Sisterhood Blog

Bibi Offers Israel Troubled Sleep — and No Hope

By Amy Wilentz

I understand why some Israelis, intending to go vote for Isaac Herzog and the Zionist Union, went in and voted for Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud at the last minute.

Tuesday I was wondering, really, how I would vote if I were Israeli - knowing what I know and having lived through what I lived through in Jerusalem during the peace process in the late 1990s.

A Bibi voter is, perhaps, a liberal whose city has been bus-bombed. Or maybe, better yet, a liberal who is watching Islamic State videos.

The last time that peace between Israelis and Palestinians was a serious solution to what many Israelis refer to as “the situation,” the streets of Jerusalem were not safe. As Israel moved to normalize relations with the Palestinians, extremists on both sides of the green line started fomenting campaigns of violence for which average citizens on both sides paid in blood. That was a time of hope, and it was very difficult.

I guess it all depends on what peace really is. On how you define it.

Is the occupation peace? Is peace a time when your streets are safe but you continue to build walls to isolate yourself from your neighbor and to control his movements and to bomb the living daylights out of him when it suits? A time when the future down through the generations looks dim, but the present seems secure?

Or is peace a time when your own streets are not safe? When the road to good intentions is paved with hell? Is peace a time when the future for your sons and daughters may promise stability and growth, but the bus they’re on might not get there?

The known is better for most voters than the unknown, security today better than peace in a distant tomorrow. The pragmatist in Israel today deals only with reality - and votes for Bibi. The idealist deals with dangerous hope - and votes for  Bibi, when the voting machine brings her back to reality.

Because of this, though, Israel is not the place most of its founders had dreamed of.

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28 Women Elected to Knesset in Record

By JTA

Ayelet Shaked of the Jewish Home Party is one of 28 women elected to the Knesset./Flash90

In an election with the highest voter turnout since 1999, a record 28 women were chosen for the 20th Knesset.

The percentage of eligible voters who came out Tuesday was 71.8; the turnout 14 years ago was 78.7 percent.

Ten of the parties running in the election garnered seats in the Knesset, with 15 not reaching the electoral threshold of 3.45 percent, or four seats.

The number of women elected broke the record of 27 set in the 2013 elections, according to the Israel Democracy Institute. The Zionist Union had eight women elected, followed by the Likud Party with six.

The number of Orthodox and haredi Orthodox lawmakers fell from 39 to 25, while the number of Arab-Israeli lawmakers increased from 12 to 17, including one each in the Zionist Union, Likud and Meretz parties.

The Knesset will welcome 41 new lawmakers, or slightly more than one-third of the parliament, according to the Israel Democracy Institute.

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Sexist Chocolate Bar Rocks Ultra-Orthodox Party

By Allison Kaplan Sommer (Haaretz)

Ultra-Orthodox women activists hoped that perhaps their time had finally come in 2015 – that they would finally be seen and heard by the parties that represent their community in the Knesset.

But just days before Israelis go to the polls, the highest-profile outreach to women by an ultra-Orthodox politician to the women of his sector involved housecleaning tips and chocolate.

It’s sad but true.

The ultra-Orthodox Yahad party, led by Eli Yishai (who broke away from the Shas party), held a campaign rally for its female supporters last week. Yahad, like all of the other ultra-Orthodox parties, not only does not include women on its list, but there are no photographs of women in their campaign posters and other materials. He is, of course, willing and eager to accept their votes, and offered them a goody to encourage them in the form of a chocolate bar. On the wrapper of the chocolate was what Yishai must have considered valuable advice for the women during the countdown to the holiday of Passover, which traditionally is associated with hardcore spring cleaning.

Printed on the wrapper: “Divide your Passover cleaning into 20 individual tasks that are easy to complete. Each time you finish one – reward yourself with square of chocolate. You’ll be amazed how, in just 20 days, how you will have finished everything and reached your goal! That’s when you’ll deserve a really big square of chocolate!”

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Israel Gets Its First Ultra-Orthodox Women’s Party

By Allison Kaplan Sommer (Haaretz)

Ruth Colian, head of the new party. // Tomer Appelbaum/Haaretz

The first-ever Israeli political party dedicated to ultra-Orthodox women, was unveiled Monday.

Heading the party, called “B’Zhutan: Haredi Women Making Change” is Ruth Colian, 33, a veteran social activist and feminist who declared that this was a “historic” step in a mission to “guarantee representation in the Knesset for ultra-Orthodox women.”

At a Tel Aviv press conference, looking determined but nervous, Colian made the announcement flanked by two other young women who had accepted invitations to run on her list in the upcoming elections - Noa Erez and Keren Muzan.

She said that her party’s goal was to represent “all women” particularly the underprivileged and single mothers who “have suffered at the hands of politicians who have run for office again and again promising to help and make their lives better and nothing changed” and who live on meager paychecks and face empty refrigerators, and those who suffered from domestic abuse or are struggling against the religious establishment.

“There are many walls of fear for Haredi women within their communities. They have nowhere to turn in the Knesset.”

As examples of the failure of the current male representation in the ultra-Orthodox parties to represent the interests of women in their community, Colian noted the absence of ultra-Orthodox male MKs in Knesset sessions on breast cancer, despite the fact that the disease is twice as likely to strike Haredi women. A major part of the problem, she says, is the inability to raise public awareness for early detection because the topic is considered “immodest.”

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Why Women Are Gaga for Hillary

By Elissa Strauss

There’s been a sea change in the way the public feels about Hillary Clinton since her run for president in 2008. Back then we had respect for Clinton and knew she is competent and trustworthy, but we didn’t deem her worthy of the same giddy excitement as her then-competitor President Obama.

Now, six years later, we are gaga for her. We LO-OVE Hillary. The Daily Beast has a story about Hillary super-fans, women who cover their cars or bodies with her face or spend their days tracking her every move on their blogs. They might be more expressive than others, but the nearly $6 million already raised by the “Ready for Hillary” Super PAC suggests they are not alone.

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Are Reproductive Rights on the Way Out?

By Sarah Seltzer

If you think the 2012 election and the epic veto-by-voter of all the misogynist politicians confused about rape means that abortion rights are once again ascendant, this first week of 2013 is likely to be a sobering. A major survey and a big cover story released this week declare anti-abortion efforts successful when it comes to the reality of how easy it is for a typical American woman to obtain an abortion.

As a writer who frequently does roundups of what’s happening for reproductive rights in the states, this is merely the broadcasting of a cruel reality: bit by bit, law by law, abortion rights are fading away.

Early in the week, the Guttmacher Institute released an important study of all the state-level legislation that was passed on reproductive rights during the past year. And although it didn’t reach the levels of 2011, the year many pundits dubbed the “War on Women,” reproductive rights continued their rollback, particularly in states like Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota and even Wisconsin:

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A Sisterhood Writer's Election Diary

By Chanel Dubofsky

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

7.30 am: Nauseous. Proceed to voting area. Think about the subversive nature of my vote, and how we can’t let Obama take his base for granted.

9.30 am: Subway to office. Keep reminding myself that if the unthinkable happens, more people will be in the streets. The revolution is happening, and it will keep happening. Consider putting my head between my knees, but train is too crowded.

10:00 am: Update Facebook status: “Nauseous until further notice.” Remember to enact social media embargo today. Feed colleagues the remains of my hurricane/election related Fear Baking.

10:15 am: Remember waiting in line in Ohio to vote for Kerry in 2004. Think about crying in my car when he lost the election, not because I loved John Kerry, but because at the time he was the closest thing there was to hope. I don’t drive anymore, but I’m glad crying in public in New York is acceptable.

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What's At Stake Tonight

By Sarah Seltzer

Getty Images
Voters cast their ballots in Macksburg, Iowa.

Tonight, as we bite our nails waiting for the election results to come in, it feels to me like there’s more at stake than just the vital policy issues I blogged about this morning.

Also hanging in the balance are the type of campaigns we encourage candidates to run as well as how much the media relies on facts and data — in interpreting policy and in gauging public opinion.

To the first point: There’s no question in this blogger’s mind that the Romney campaign has been incredibly dishonest — in its deceptive advertising, its candidate’s constant switching of positions and its refusal to answer policy questions. If Romney wins, it will open the gate for more and more candidates to run based on image projection and “bending with the wind” rather than actual ideas, plans and beliefs. This alarms me. After all, it’s not as though our electoral process is a particularly transparent and honest one to begin with. A Romney victory would be an opportunity to further muddy the waters, to further turn a serious election into a popularity contest.

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Framing Abortion as a Religious Question

By Sarah Seltzer

Getty Images

After an entire first Presidential debate that ignored women’s issues, and a second debate that ignored them until the very last minute, election-watchers concerned about the future of our uteri were getting quite antsy. No mention up to that point of LGBT issues, reproductive rights, equal pay for equal work, childcare, or even education.

And then, at long last, the question came up: How does your shared Catholic religion inform your feeling on abortion?

The phenomenal, trailblazing job of moderating that Martha Raddatz had done up until that point came to a shuddering halt. The religious framing of the question bugged a lot of viewers who expressed their frustration last night and today.

Robin Marty wrote:

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Male-Only Voting in Crown Heights Prompts Complaints

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

The Lubavitch Hasidim of Crown Heights voted in new communal leadership yesterday. And by Lubavitch Hasidim, of course, I mean men.

Only men — over age 20 if they’re married or 30 or older if they’re not — are permitted to vote for the new leadership of the Vaad Hakohol (Community Committee), which runs the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council. The CHJCC runs and facilitates access to government programs like food stamps and housing subsidies, and serves as a clearinghouse for the local Jewish community, as well as represents it to government officials.

The voting rules that require the one representative of a local Jewish household to be male means that women who are divorced, widowed or never married have no voice in choosing their communal representatives.

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